Air New Zealand now owns the world's first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, having formally taken deliver of the next-gen jet in Seattle on Tuesday evening (US time).
The Kiwi carrier will fly the Boeing 787-9 to its new home of Auckland on Thursday July 10 as flight number NZ6789, departing Seattle at 7am local time on a direct route to Auckland, where it will arrive around 4pm local time on Friday July 11.
(Australian Business Traveller will be travelling on the delivery flight as a guest of Air New Zealand.)
Boeing handed Air New Zealand the keys to the 787-9, which is a larger and longer-range variant of the original 787-8, at a celebration held at the Everett facility where the Dreamliners are built, along with other twin-aisle jets such as the Boeing 777 and 747.
The coming-out party for the Boeing 787-9, decked out in Air New Zealand's eye-catching 'all black' livery, also featured chart-topping US country rock group The Band Perry.
The light show at times turned the Boeing 787's all-black livery into purple and ultraviolet.
Air New Zealand Chief Financial Officer Rob McDonald, standing in for airline CEO Chris Luxon, praised the economic benefits of the Boeing 787-9 over current and conventional aircraft.
"This plane was built for Air New Zealand" McDonald said, adding that the Dreamliner "will be a game-changer for our business."
"One of the major drawcards of the 787-9 is its fuel efficiency, and given New Zealand's relative geographic isolation we have a natural bias towards long-haul flights."
"The ever-changing price of jet fuel brings aircraft efficiency into very sharp focus for us" McDonald explained.
"The cost of a barrel of jet fuel is more than 180 percent higher today than it was when we first placed our 787-9 order."
For Air New Zealand this first of ten Boeing 787-9s represents the continued renewal of its fleet, which also includes deliveries of more Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to tap long-range routes plus thirteen Airbus A320neo and A321neo jets to sharpen its competitive edge against Qantas on the trans-Tasman market.
The Dreamliner will make its own trans-Tasman runs from Auckland to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane prior to its official debut on the Auckland-Perth route from October 15.
Flights between Auckland and Shanghai, as well as Auckland-Tokyo in September and Christchurch-Tokyo in October as the airline's second and third 787-9s are delivered.
Boeing holds orders for some 413 of the 787-9s, which many airlines say represents 'sweet spot' for passenger capacity and range.
The 787-9 is only 6 metres (20 feet) longer than the 787-8, but that's enough room for around 40 more seats or a score of first class suites, depending on how the aircraft is fitted out.
The even longer Boeing 787-10, due in the 2018-2019 timeframe, will carry up to 320 seats in a typical three-class configuration.
PREVIOUS | Boeing's first 787-9 for Air New Zealand has broken cover, clad in stunning 'all black' livery as befits the flagship of the Kiwi carrier's Dreamliner fleet.
Most of its nine siblings will carry the more standard white-and-black treatment seen below.
But as slick as that livery is, we think you'll agree that this bold black beauty is even more eye-catching.
Air New Zealand played host to Boeing's 787-9 test aircraft in January this year as the next-gen jetliner underwent extensive testing, including a week spent basking (or should that be baking?) and then flying under the Australian outback's sizzling summer sun.
If you're curious about what the inside of these special test aircraft looks like, check out the exclusive Australian Business Traveller gallery of Boeing's 787-9 Dreamliner ZB002.
Inside Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9
Each of Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9s will see a three-class configuration of 18 seats in business class, 21 in premium economy and 263 in economy.
We've put together this quick video clip to showcase the seats.
The pointy end of Air NZ's Boeing 787-9 will see 18 of the familiar Business Premier seats already seen on the airline's flagship Boeing 777s.
The lie-flat business class seats are arranged in a 1-1-1 herringbone layout so that every passenger has direct aisle access.
The seat is fitted with a 'memory foam' mattress, duvet and two full size pillows.
Less familiar are the Premium Economy seats, with Air NZ choosing a more standard 'off the shelf' design instead of its Spaceseat (show below).
The 787-9's premium economy seats have been sourced from US seat designer Zodiac, with Air New Zealand calling them "a customised seat best described as Business-lite."
Arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration, the seats have a 41” pitch and 5” wide armrest, with a generous 9" recline, integrated leg rest and extendable foot support.
There are 21 premium economy seats in this stand-alone cabin, which also has its own dedicated bathroom facilities.
The bulk of Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 is given over to two economy cabins with all seating in a 3-3-3 layout.
This includes 14 Skycouch rows of three seats where the legrests and armrests flip all the way up to convert into a 'sofa-like' flat surface.
The Skycouch rows have a 33" pitch compared to the 31-32" of standard economy seats.
The rest of the economy cabin will be fitted with a standard economy seat from Zodiac but customised to Air New Zealand's specifications including a slimline seat back for more space, sculpted upholstering and a more flexible headrest.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.